Denis Peirce: Summer evening fishing
With the next heat wave baring down on us we are expecting triple digits in the lower elevations and 80s up in the mountains. In the highest parts of the central Sierra, south of Tahoe, there are predictions of thunder showers. These are the times when being on the water at dawn can make sense. If getting up at 3 a.m. to be on the water at 5 is not your thing there are some alternatives to beat the worst of the heat.
This past Monday was the longest day of the year which is significant in the natural world. It is at this time each year that the Hexagenia mayfly hatches in a number of waters in the north state. One of the unusual features of this two-inch insect is that it emerges at sunset and continues into the night.
The most notable lake for this is Almanor at 4500 feet elevation in the Sierra, above Chico. Almanor is a flooded meadow with a clay bottom in many areas. It is in the bottom mud that the hex nymphs live. They emerge nightly from near shore out to 15 feet or more of water. There is a daily cycle where the trout and bass move out of the depths in late afternoon to feed on the nymphs as they become active. They feed on the insects at the bottom in the early evening. As the bugs swim to the surface, feeding picks up. This culminates at dark when the majority of the insects hatch and a variety of predators get to work. I have seen some birds active before darkness falls but the main airborne predators are bats.
If you are out on the water you can hear the fish splashing as they feed at the surface. You can also hear the swishing of bat wings if they are flying close to your head picking off bugs. I have often wondered how any of these hex’s survive. Despite my doubts there is a new hatch each year, so there are enough survivors to keep the population thriving.
Lake Almanor is the most notable lake for hex’s but there are other places closer to home where they exist although not in the same numbers. Scotts Flat Lake has the bugs as does the Thermolito After Bay near Oroville and Lake Davis.
From an anglers point of view avoiding the midday heat and coming out to fish the evening is a great strategy to get in some fishing.
Another species that comes out as the sun goes off the water is bass. During the heat of the day they are sulking in the depths. As the evening comes on they are looking up. A lure silhouetted against the sky can be very tempting. Noise can help, poppers, buzz baits and frogs being my top lure choices.
Another summer evening fishery is Fuller Lake on the Bowman Lake Road off Hwy 20. Fuller is the most reliably cold-water lake in our area. It carries water from the bottom of Bowman Lake that is cool even in the heat of summer. You will not see many kids in the water here.
Late in the afternoon there are bugs hatching without much in the way of surface feeding activity. Many afternoons you will see fly anglers arriving from the valley. They will be seemingly not in a rush to get out on the water in their float tubes. What they are waiting for is the shadow line to form on the west shore. As the shadow line moves across the lake the trout follow, hanging back on the shady side. You can see their progression across the lake by the splashes they make as they feed on surface bugs. The fly anglers will be right there with them.
What I enjoy about these longest days of the year is the opportunity to get in a days work and still get out for some quality angling before it gets dark. It maybe a bit warm but we can’t do this in the winter.
Get out for an evening’s fishing!
Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com
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